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The Vegetarian Genotype

Human populations with a long history of vegetarianism may harbor a gene variant that made them better adapted to a plant-based diet, Wired reports.

In a study appearing in Molecular Biology and Evolution, researchers from Cornell University and elsewhere examined FADS2 genotypes present in 234 individuals from a primarily vegetarian Indian population, and 311 individuals from the US.

FADS2, they note, encodes an enzyme that helps synthesize long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, a key part of membrane phospholipids and a substrate for signaling molecules. These long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids can be obtained be eating meat or synthesized via FADS2.

The researchers found that people from a mostly vegetarian population tended to have a different FADS2 genotype. Sixty-eight percent of Indians had an I/I genotype as compared to 18 percent of Americans, they report. By drawing on 1000 Genomes Data, the researchers confirmed that this genotype was more common among South Asians with a prevalence of 70 percent, as compared to 53 percent in Africans, 29 percent in East Asians, and 17 percent in Europeans. 

A different genotype, they add, is found among Greenlanders with a seafood-heavy diet.

The Scan

Guidelines for Ancient DNA Work

More than two dozen researchers have developed new ethical guidelines for conducting ancient DNA research, which they present in Nature.

And Cleared

A UK regulator has cleared former UK Prime Minister David Cameron in concerns he should have registered as a consultant-lobbyist for his work with Illumina, according to the Financial Times.

Suit Over Allegations

The Boston Globe reports that David Sabatini, who was placed on leave from MIT after allegations of sexual harassment, is suing his accuser, the Whitehead Institute, and the institute's director.

Nature Papers on Esophageal Cancer, Origin of Modern Horses, Exome Sequencing of UK Biobank Participants

In Nature this week: genetic and environmental influences of esophageal cancer, domestic horse origin traced to Western Eurasian steppes, and more.